Mumbai: The political temperature has risen in Maharashtra ahead of the crucial verdict by the assembly speaker on the cross-petitions by Shiv Sena factions seeking disqualification of each other’s MLAs following a split in the party.
The outcome will decide the way forward for the Eknath Shinde government and also the regional outfit’s rival groups.
Narwekar is slated to deliver his much-awaited verdict on the disqualification pleas at 4 pm on Wednesday, more than 18 months after the Shiv Sena suffered a vertical split, a political development that resulted in a change of guard in the state.
On Tuesday, the opposition Shiv Sena (UBT) upped the ante as its president Uddhav Thackeray said his party has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court objecting to a recent meeting between Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who is among the MLAs whose disqualification has been sought, and speaker Rahul Narwekar as both sides engaged in a verbal spat.
“If the judge (Narwekar) is going to meet the accused, what should we expect from that judge,” Thackeray asked, speaking to the media at his residence `Matoshree’ here.
The affidavit before the SC was filed on Monday, the former CM said.
Thackeray’s ally and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) founder Sharad Pawar also said that when someone who is hearing a case meets the person against whom the case is being heard, it “leaves room for doubt”.
Hitting back, Narwekar said Thackeray should know for what purposes a speaker could meet a chief minister.
“If he still levels such allegations, then his motive is very clear. There is no rule that a speaker, while hearing disqualification pleas, cannot do any other work,” Narwekar contended.
The speaker met Shinde at `Varsha’, the chief minister’s official residence in south Mumbai, on Sunday.
Thackeray noted that the two had met in October last year too.
Narwekar’s ruling will decide whether “democracy exists in the country or not” or whether the two (speaker and chief minister) will “murder” democracy, said the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader.
The Supreme Court last month extended the deadline to January 10 for Narwekar to decide on the cross-petitions filed by rival factions of the Shiv Sena seeking disqualification of each other’s MLAs.
Thackeray said since the SC directed Narwekar in May last year to take a decision on the disqualification pleas, the speaker has met the chief minister twice.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed confidence about the Shiv Sena-BJP-NCP (Ajit Pawar group) government remaining stable going forward.
The senior BJP leader stressed that the alliance government is “legal” and hoped the speaker’s ruling will give justice to them.
In June 2022, Shinde and several MLAs rebelled against the then-chief minister Thackeray, leading to a split in the Shiv Sena and fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, which also comprised the NCP and the Congress.
Cross-petitions were filed by the Shinde and Thackeray factions before the speaker seeking action against each other under anti-defection laws.
The apex court in May last year directed Narwekar to adjudicate on the pleas expeditiously.
The Election Commission had given the ‘Shiv Sena’ name and ‘bow and arrow’ symbol to the Shinde-led faction, while the one headed by Thackeray was called the Shiv Sena (UBT) with a flaming torch as its symbol.
In July last year, the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP also joined the Shinde-led government.
Assembly polls in Maharashtra are due in the second half of 2024.